MarketWell Voices: How Climb Credit is supporting their consumers’ financial wellbeing
Climb changed its positioning in order to resonate with the Canadian market. Can you describe that process and where you netted out?
In late 2019, we shifted our positioning from “direct to consumers with low credit scores” to B2B, focused on “partners who are working with people who understand what has damaged their credit score and are motivated to rebuild”. There’s a lot of noise in the market directed at Canadians with poor credit—and not all of the companies vying for attention are ethical. Rather than trying to fight it out with sketchy competitors in display ads, we went for an expert, education-first approach.
We know our product can stand up to tough questions from partners who are looking out for their own clients—it’s a perfect match when we can get in front of them with our expertise in this space and prove we really know how to help people rebuild.
We started with one key partnership, working with a company that provides software to most of the professionals in our target market. They saw that we could meet a need for their clients, and that was enough for them to help us with some introductions. That was invaluable for us to start critical relationship building in the B2B space.
You serve a fairly specialized market. Did that make creating a customer persona easier?
It blew my mind how many distinct personas we identified within the “Canadians with poor credit” segment! We had such an aha moment when we drilled down into which types of leads had performed well for us vs which had not—understanding that among people with bad credit who are looking to improve it, I’d guess about 70% are looking for a silver bullet so that they can qualify for more credit, which is probably the last thing they should do.
By identifying that customer persona as someone we wanted to avoid, we were able to make meaningful progress in the business. Our customers know they don’t need a high interest $1500 loan to solve their problems, they need to make consistent, responsible choices over time.
How would you say Climb benefits the wellbeing of your audience?
We are so incredibly proud of how we help our clients! We work with people who really are trying to get on the right track with their finances and credit. They may have had bad luck or made bad decisions in the past, but by the time they come to us, they are ready to take control and build back better.
The first thing we do is make sure people understand what a credit score is, how to check their credit report and what steps create a positive impact on their credit. It can be confusing and intimidating—many people will act as though credit is some great mystery. We help our customers to feel empowered and confident about reaching their goals, whether that’s a mortgage, a new car or a rainy day fund.
What have you learned in your sectors that would apply to other areas of wellbeing marketing?
When we were thinking about a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) for our new product line we wanted something that would stand out from all the other companies that claim to be customer-centric or ethical but don’t walk the walk. We finally settled on the goal to get to a 0% NSF (non-sufficient funds) rate within three years.
We take recurring payments from clients and report their positive payment history to the credit bureaus. When a person has an NSF, they are charged around $20-40 by their bank. The company trying to take payment usually also charges $20-40 as a “processing” or “penalty” fee. They’re out up to $80 PLUS it’s recorded as a negative on their credit report. Other companies will shrug their shoulders at people’s self-sabotage and count it as a way to make money (because of the penalty or processing fee). We take a different approach by doing everything we can to help clients avoid NSFs.
Other companies in financial services look at NSF fees as a revenue stream. By holding ourselves accountable to make sure that we’re only charging clients money if we’re delivering value, we’re really living the idea of being customer-centric. I think for all of us who are in the wellbeing space, we should look honestly to see if there are areas of the business where we’re making money, but the client isn’t seeing value.
The pandemic has changed the way the world thinks about wellbeing. What are the top three changes you have observed? How would you say this has impacted your approach to marketing?
The pandemic has really slowed down our key channels. We’ve seen a significant slowdown of new conversions and churn has increased. But on the positive side of the equation, our B2B partners have had more time to spend collaborating and shifting to virtual meetings and that has enabled us to punch above our weight in cross-country networking.
If I had to narrow all the ways our business has changed down to three things, I’d say first that people are looking for real partnerships—faking it isn’t going to get you there. There is a lot less confidence in what the future will bring (thank goodness we already had a very generous cancellation policy!). Lastly, when you do manage to connect with people, they have more patience. You just have to get that connection in place.